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review 2016-08-06 16:50
Trying to be a Lover as well as a Fighter: Firefight | Review
Firefight - MacLeod Andrews,Brandon Sanderson

I love David's character growth in this YA Superpowered Dystopia.

 

They told David it was impossible—that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart—invincible, immortal, unconquerable—is dead. And he died by David's hand.

 

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And there's no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

 

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Audible = $3.99.

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 11 hrs 39 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #2 of 3 in "The Reckoners" trilogy. All three, and a novella, are out and available on audio.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book(s).**

 

SUMMARY:

I have read some reviews of this book by people who don't like the romance. That's my favorite part, along with all the changes happening within the various characters. The action for me will always be secondary and I only enjoy it if it is firmly rooted in the characters and how & why they fight the way they do.

 

I have marked this with Diversity, since Val is Hispanic & Mizzy's African American and there are more roles for females in this one. (In the last one, Abraham was like the token "black guy" and Tia & Megan were the only females with true speaking parts)

 

 

CHARACTERS:

David: As I said above, I love his character growth, especially his developing compassion and awareness of the wider world. The bad metaphors did occasionally get to be a bit much, but the funny thing is that he isn't that bad at them unless he's trying not to be.

 

Megan/Firefight: I find that the contrast between how totally competent she really is as a fighter and her insecurities regarding her powers (and tendency to compare them to those of others) makes her seem like very normal young woman. I really enjoyed reading about her struggle to be something more (or is it less) than just an Epic.

 

David & Megan: In the last book, David confessed his feelings to Megan after her death, since he didn't know she was an Epic & could reincarnate. The stuff between them in this one were my favorite parts, and I loved them all. If I have anything negative to say about this relationship, it's that they have a little too much in common, which seems slightly unrealistic. But this is definitely a couple that could make it work - if it weren't for a few little things that might end up with his having to kill her. And that's if she's not just playing him after all.

 

Abraham & Cody are left behind in Newcago. In this book we have a new team: Val - mostly just grumpy & curt / XL - a bit creepy, but also a bit too much like Abraham / Mizzy - she is unique and fun. She's kind of their Q, but wants to be in on the action. I think she and David contrast nicely.

 

Prof & Tia - I had some issues with them this time around. They are struggling to adjust to the changes that David has introduced, and he's the one who suffers as a result.

 

The main villains in this one are: Regalia, the water controlling Epic who runs the city, and Obliteration, an Epic with bomb like powers. In addition, we have the mysterious Dawnslight, who is practically worshiped by citizens but may not be real.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

We get a whole new city in this book. Instead of the steel catacombs of an always night-time Newcago (Chicago) where people go about their business grimly - We get a glow-in-the-dark Babilar (Babylon Restored, i.e. sunken Manhattan) where people chose to party the nights away on the rooftops of the city's tallest buildings. The atmosphere & people in the city remind me of those usually seen in fictional accounts of New Orleans.

 

In Steelheart, David was extremely familiar with the city. The book started with his crazy dash through it, which demonstrated that. Here, he is not only unfamiliar with the geography but with the customs. I would say he is a fish out of water, but in this case it's more like a (non-aquatic) bird in the water.

 

PLOT:

The story starts in Newcago, as the Reckoners battle an Epic who has come to destroy them following their victory over Steelheart. It serves as a smooth way to introduce what happened in the previous book and the relationships that David had developed up to now.

 

One of the main themes in this book is trust. Everyone in the Reckoners seems to be working behind everyone else's back, rather than demonstrating true trust. And David's opinions and beliefs regarding the Epics are beginning to change. The book also centers on the fact that no one really knows anyone else's plan, whether they be ally or enemy (or even who's who at certain times).

 

This book ends with a full on cliffhanger, followed by a small wrapup scene.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Fortune cookie text messages
  • When David learns the truth about Calamity (and what happens after Regalia tries to punish him)
  • The big confrontation scene at the end, once everyone's plans have played out, and the quiet moments afterwards.

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: a bit of swearing

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: There is violence in this book, and people do get killed, but it isn't graphic for the most part.

 

NARRATION:

Character voices differentiated = Yes; I think Mizzy's voice especially fits her, although I'm not sure what her accent is supposed to be. / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents good = ? (this is a post apocalyptic world, so I'm not sure we can map the accents to our current world) / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual

 

I always enjoy MacLeod Andrews narration and this is no exception. I feel like he truly conveys the growing complexities of David.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

Firefight (The Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 11 hrs 39 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • I've never been into comic books, but have recently enjoyed several regular books with super powered characters. Can you recommend some good ones?
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review 2016-08-03 16:18
Made Me Pout a Bit: The Servants of the Storm | Review
The Servants of the Storm: The Pillars of Reality, Book 5 - Jack Campbell,MacLeod Andrews,Audible Studios

I can't believe this excellent YA SF (and a bit of everything else) series is almost over.

 

Mari leads an army now. She and Alain must fight together to bind back the Broken Kingdom and build a force strong enough to defeat the might of the Great Guilds. But the Storm has many Servants who seek to preserve or gain personal power or wealth, or fear the New Day that Mari seeks to bring to the world.

 

And Mari knows that victory will mean nothing if the precious knowledge brought long ago to their world is destroyed. In order to save it, Alain and Mari will have to pierce through the heart of their enemies' power and confront once more a place of ancient nightmare.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I received this book free in return for an honest review, courtesy of Audible Studios.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Servants of the Storm by Jack Campbell, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2016) / Length: 11 hrs 56 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is #5 of 6 in "The Pillars of Reality" series. Both #5 & #6 will continue to be available on audio only until towards the end of 2016 when the Kindle & Paperback versions will be released.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book(s).**

 

SUMMARY:

I was so excited to get this book. There was a lot of internal flailing going on as I listened straight through on my day off. I did do a bit of pouting afterwards though since, sadly, what I loved best about the last book - all the time we got to spend with my favorite side characters - was curtailed in this one.

 

I was disappointed that we had just gathered this great group of characters together and started to see everything they could do, and then a big section of this book was spent with a small group (that didn't have my favorites) off on a mission.

 

That said, I am sooo glad that the final book will be out just a month after this one!

 

Note: some things may be spelling incorrectly in this review, since the text version isn't out yet and I had only the audio to go by.

 

CHARACTERS:

Mari: She has fully embraced her role and is now working to allow others some measure of control and autonomy rather than try to keep a finger in every pie.

 

Alain: He is under so much pressure to remain constantly vigilant. I am glad that they are giving her other guards as well, despite her dislike of the resulting lack of privacy. He is working to find a balance between acting human again, and still using what he has learned. There is a moment when he becomes distracted by anger and uses mage techniques to calm himself. I like that he isn't feeling/being pressured to give up everything he is, only the bad parts.

 

Alain & Mari: Jealousy is gone, all that is left is full trust and commitment. I really really hope we get an epilogue, or some sort of follow up at the end, that shows what they could be together if their lives weren't constant in danger.

 

Alli & Calu: were reunited & married in the last book. They are some of my favorites and some of those who were given way too little time.

Asha: was the character whose arc got the most attention in this book.

Bev: She got some good growth, but it took place between books. I do really like the direction she is going in beginning to work with the children. I feel that she has the experience & compassion plus the toughness necessary when dealing with war orphans and other children in Tiae. She also didn't get enough time.

Mechanic Dav: Was in a big chunk of the book; but, other than being in love with Asha, I don't feel like he has gotten the development he needs to be interesting.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

After 4 previous books, there wasn't a lot of new world building in this one. No completely new locations this time, just additional cities in Tiae and more time in the Empire. Also, no dragons or any new spell creatures this time around, but we did get a really nice moment with Mari & a Roc.

 

The rebels of her "daughterness" (as Alli calls Mari, to annoy her) have begun to build the items from the forbidden texts; so there were better far talkers, some artillery that Alli is very attached to, and a surprise invention that plays a bit part.

 

PLOT:

This is my favorite beginning since the first one. We got to see Mari with her Mages & Mechanics, the revived army of Tiae, and a growing army of Commons under General Flyn all working together to retake the city of Minute. There were lots of opportunities to spotlight different characters.

 

After all the adventures with trains in the past books, I was disappointed not to have one this time. Since he had mixed it up in #4 and had them be the one attacking the train, I was looking forward to seeing what happened this time.

 

I understand the necessity of the mission they undertake in the middle of the book, but I think that it took up too much of the story. I also did not find the small number of people that participated to be a very dynamic group.

 

Warning: the ending IS a cliffhanger, as the forces of the enemies begin to descend on multiple locations and the final confrontation is about to begin. (It doesn't end in the middle of anything though.)

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • The observations about the differences between epic tales and real life adventures, which include days of boring travel and horses that act up at important moments.
  • I like the fact that foresight continues to be both a help (when Alain is able to foresee danger) and a big problem (when other mages foresee where they might be going).
  • I loved how the Mage guild's attempts to discredit Alain are proving detrimental to his enemies by causing them to jump to incorrect conclusions

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: Asha & Dev are given some "alone time."

 

NARRATION:

So, being the 5th book, I don't feel the need to repeat all the accolades. I will just say that the small production issues found in the previous book were not present here, and Mr. Andrews did his usual excellent job.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Servants of the Storm (The Pillars of Reality #5) by Jack Campbell, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2016) / Length: 11 hrs 56 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • I like how in this book (and in the Heartstrikers series by Rachel Aaron) you have people with the ability to see the future pitted against one another. Any recommendations for similar books?
  • Does it bother you when favorite characters from previous books get sidelined in a sequel?

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review 2016-07-30 16:27
Sweet with a Side of Dark: The Dragon's Call | Review + Narrator Interview
The Dragon's Call: The Dragon Throne - K. W. McCabe,Kristina Yuen,K.W. McCabe

This post-apocalyptic dystopian YA Fantasy is lifted by a non-typical relationship path.

 

In a thoughtless, final act of destruction, humans wake the one creature of legend that they have no protection against...Years after the complete subjugation of the human race, Derek, heir of the Dragon Queen, and Cecily, create a tentative friendship. But something, or someone, is stalking the human enclave. Cecily and Derek must find out who and why, before Cecily is next...

 

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Kindle + Audible = $5.98.

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I received this book free in return for an honest review.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Dragon's Call by KW McCabe, read by Kristina Yuen, published independently (2013) / Length: 7 hrs 14 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #1 in "The Dragon Throne" series. Book #2 has been long delayed.

 

SUMMARY:

This is a typical YA Fantasy that doesn't completely break any molds, nor did anything about it absolutely wow me, but I like it and anticipate listening to it again occasionally.

 

We have the following tropes: a (dragon) prince who just wants to be normal, a girl with something special about her, an instant "something" between them (on his part), a very rapidly developing relationship, and a BFF who can't keep her mouth shut.

 

But we also have: a girl whose broken & imperfect family nevertheless cares and is present & trying, actual "dates" with getting to know you moments, a main character who seeks out opportunities to make good friendships, efforts to mend things that aren't working, and NO love triangle.

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review 2016-07-20 17:00
Another Great Installment: The Pirates of Pacta Servanda | Review
The Pirates of Pacta Servanda (The Pillars of Reality) - Jack Campbell,MacLeod Andrews

Despite a few small issues, it has joined the previous books in high rotation on my audio player.

 

Master Mechanic Mari and Mage Alain have survived every attempt to stop them, but their enemies are determined to kill Mari, the only one who can save her world from a storm of destruction. As armies begin to gather and cities seethe with tension, Mari, Alain, and their friends must prepare to confront the storm in the place it first appeared: the broken kingdom of Tiae.

 

The dangers facing them demand perilous raids, tough battles, and more than a little piracy. Beating the Mechanics Guild and the Mage Guild that have controlled the world of Dematr for centuries will require an unprecedented alliance under Mari's command of rebellious Mechanics, Mages, and common folk who know that together they can change the world, but separately they will all lose.

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Kindle + Audible = $7.48.

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


Source: I purchased this book myself from Audible.

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Pirates of Pacta Servanda by Jack Campbell, read by MacLeod Andrews, published by Audible Studios (2016) / Length: 11 hrs 32 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is #4 of 5 (so far) in "The Pillars of Reality" series. The final book (#6), The Wrath of the Great Guilds, will be released on audio on 8/1/16 (and in other formats approximately 90 days later).

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous books.**

 

SUMMARY:

I rated all 3 of the previous books as 5*. I only gave this book 4.5*, since I felt that the beginning was a bit rocky; and there were some other small issues as well. On the other hand, the ongoing presence of some truly great supporting characters (as opposed to meeting them & parting, as in the previous books) gave this book a little something extra. It has been a long time since I liked a "Book #4" as much as I like this one. 

 

 

CHARACTERS:

Alain: He has grown so much. He still struggles to say "I love you," to grasp the finer details of "social skills," and to apply Mari's new "wisdom" to Mage things. But he has gotten good at being a friend and dealing with people. And he's getting very good at being a partner.

 

Mari: Although still not comfortable with it, she has accepted and begun to own her role as the prophesied Daughter. I agree with her that much of what she receives credit for is actually the knowledge & skills of others. But she is in no way just a figurehead; she makes decisions and takes action.

 

Alain & Mari: They are married! I couldn't say that in the last review, since I didn't want to spoil it. I loved their "wedding" and how, in this book, Alain tells Alli he didn't even know it was taking place. Their bond grows deeper as they each are learning what it means to be a spouse but still be an individual as well.

 

Alli - I stand by my assessment from the last book that Alli is my favorite supporting character / Bev - has proven to be an unexpected highlight as well, and I like the way she has bonded with Alain. While many of the other Mechanics like & respect him because of his connection to Mari, I think only Calu has connected to him so much on a personal level.

 

This is the book in which Mari truly begins to collect "followers," although I am sure she would hate that term, so we get LOTS of new characters. I think that Mr. Campbell has done a very skillful job of focusing on a few at a time (with major ones being introduced in previous books), so that we can get to know them as individuals and not be overwhelmed.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

In the last book, we finally learned the history of this world. This book takes us into the broken Kingdom of Tiae, where we learn how things went so wrong there. We also learn a bit more about spell creatures (such as dragons, rocs, and trolls) and how they work.

 

PLOT:

As I said in the Summary, the beginning of this book seemed remarkably awkward for such an experienced writer. This includes both the efforts to fill in the back story and also the dialog. Once it gets going though, it smooths out.

 

I felt like there was a good mix of action scenes and quiet character moments.  And the ending came at a good stopping point.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • The whole scene surrounding Alli pulling out a certain piece of paper.
  • My absolute favorite part is the way that Alain deals with an argument between a group of Mages & one of Mechanics. It reminded me of something my mother might have done, only taken to the max.
  • Mari's response to the troll.

 

I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: some swearing

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: One of the couples in the book, who just recently met, disappear and are assumed to be engaging in intimate activities.

 

NARRATION:

Character voices differentiated = Yes, although once I think Mr Andrews accidentally mixed up Mage Dav & Mechanic Dav and used the wrong voice. / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents good = Yes, as always / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good, although there were one or two places I felt it was off / Emoting (& non-emoting, for the mages) = Good / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual

 

For the most part, the narration continues to be superior; but it was a bit less polished than usual. And there were a few production issues in this book, such as a couple of repeated lines.

 

BOOK DETAILS

The Pirates of Pacta Servanda (The Pillars of Reality #4) by Jack Campbell, read by MacLeod Andrews, published byhttp://booklikes.com/post/text/1432328 Audible Studios (2016) / Length: 11 hrs 32 min

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  • What's your SF/F favorite series that has more than 4 books?
  • Do you like it when characters marry part way through a series, or do you prefer to have that kept for the end?

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review 2016-07-16 16:31
Now SF Also: The Disappearance of Ember Crow | Review
The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe) - Ambelin Kwaymullina,Cara Gee

The previous book was a YA Post-Apocalyptic Paranormal Dystopia. This one has something for the SF lover as well.

 

After a daring raid on Detention Center 3 to rescue their trapped peers, Ashala Wolf and her Tribe of fellow Illegals - children with powerful and inexplicable abilities - are once again entrenched in their safe haven, the Firstwood. Existing in alliance with the ancient trees and the giant intelligent lizards known as saurs, the young people of the Tribe do their best to survive and hide. But the new peace is fractured when Ashala's friend Ember Crow goes missing, leaving only a cryptic message behind. Ember claims to be harboring terrible secrets about her past that could be a threat to the Tribe and all Illegals. Ashala and her boyfriend, Connor, spring into action, but with Ashala's Sleepwalking ability functioning erratically and unknown enemies lying in wait, leaving the Firstwood is a dangerous proposition. Can Ashala and Connor protect the Tribe and bring Ember home, or must they abandon one to save the other?

 

Buy Now | +Goodreads

Whispersync Deal Alert*: Audible = $3.99.

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.


BOOK DETAILS:

The Disappearance of Ember Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina, read by Cara Gee, published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio (2016) / Length: 9 hrs 35 min

 

SERIES INFO:

This is Book #2 of 3 in "The Tribe" trilogy. Book #3, The Foretelling of Georgie Spider, has already been published in Australia, but no U.S. publication date has yet been announced.

 

**This review contains spoilers for the previous book.**

 

SUMMARY:

I didn't rate this one as high as the previous one (which got 4.5*) because I felt like it took a while to get started. (And possibly because I was a bit sad to see conflict between Ashala & Connor, although I believe it was realistic and well handled.)

 

I liked the cover of this one better than the last one, although the just showing one eye theme means we don't get to see Ember's mismatched eyes.

 

This is another instance in which Audible placed a YA books in the 11-13 age category. I'm not sure what's up with that.

 

I tagged this one with Diversity, since it features an Australian Aboriginal character & beliefs and is written by an #ownvoices author.

 

 

CHARACTERS:

Ashala & Connor: There were so many things I wanted to say about this relationship in my review of the first book, but couldn't since they were all spoilers. One of those things was the fact that this was a case of semi-Instalove that I didn't mind. I believe that Connor was already half in love with Ashala before they ever met, due to having carefully studied her file. Then when Ashala actually shared his memories, she developed feelings for him. Her acceptance of him into the Tribe in such an intimate way (being willing to share a memory of her own), sealed it for him. (Going back and finding the evidence of their true relationship is a joy.)

 

In this book, Connor is growing and changing; and like any good partner, he helps Ashala do so as well. Although I hate to see conflict, I love the way Connor stands up for what he needs and for equality of expectations & risk. (I'm not one of those people who thinks that true love means doing anything for and taking anything from the other person. A healthy relationship requires communication and boundaries, and we get to see that here.)

 

Ember Crow: The fact that Ember has secrets is a central point of the book, so I don't think it is a spoiler to say I could never have seen this twist coming when I started, wow. Yet it all remains consistent with what has come before.

 

Georgie & Daniel - I am guessing that they are going to become a couple in the next book. It will be nice to learn more about 2 people who have been so important to the survival of the Tribe. / Jules - I am anticipating seeing more of him and how he might change & grow in the next book.

 

WORLDBUILDING:

We get to see more of the world in this one. Ember visits Fern City, which is a city constantly battling being taken over by the jungle. And a good portion of the book takes place in Spinifex City, where everyone is obsessed with a local drink but otherwise very laid back for this world. We also learn some very important things about about how the current dystopian state of their society developed.

 

PLOT:

As I said in the Summary, I felt like this one got off to a bit of a slow start. It wasn't until Ashala got a message that there was finally news from Ember that things started to take off.

 

Flashbacks through shared memories continue to be an important part of the narrative, and so this book isn't straightforward or chronological.

 

The previous book ended with the feeling that, although they hadn't changed the world, they had reached a stopping point. This one has a cliffhanger. The ending is nice, and some personal stuff is resolved, but there is a lot hanging over their head.

 

HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:

  • Nicky
  • Although it isn't pointed out directly, there were a couple of instances where I felt like Ember was emulating Ashala's best qualities
  • Jeremy Duoro (a normal human fighting for Illegals' rights) - I didn't get much of a feel for him in the last book, but the scenes related to him in this one were some of the best.

 

OTHER CAUTIONSCaution: There are some hints of intimacy between certain characters. / One character is still mourning his deceased male lover.

 

NARRATION:

Note: I am not sure how fair a review of the narrator this is. I really liked Candice Moll's narration of the first book, especially the Australian accent. Plus I very rarely like it when they change narrators mid-way. It would have been different if the majority of the book had been from Ember's POV, thus making it logical to have a different reader. But the central character is still Ashala.

 

Character voices differentiated = Only "sort of" / Opposite sex voices acceptable = just barely, I wasn't fond of Connor's voice at all / Accents good = Not applicable / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good / Speed = Slow; I listened on 1.5 instead of my usual 1.25

 

BOOK DETAILS:

The Disappearance of Ember Crow (The Tribe trilogy #2) by Ambelin Kwaymullina, read by Cara Gee, published by Candlewick (2016) / Length: 9 hrs 35 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

Talk to Me (pretty please)

  • Can you recommend any other books that mix paranormal and scifi?
  • Do you think Instalove is ever justified?

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